Trade sees record Canadian canola acres as possibility

canola field
(Dave Bedard photo)

CNS Canada — Canadian farmers could be set to seed record-large canola acres in 2017, while wheat area is generally expected to be down on the year when Statistics Canada releases its first survey-based acreage estimates of the year on Friday.

From a purely economic standpoint, “canola is historically the commodity that pays the bills,” said Mike Jubinville of ProFarmer Canada.

With disease issues for cereal crops and uncertain demand prospects for pulses, “canola still stands as one of those lone beacons: a commodity that as long as it yields good will probably yield a profit,” he said.

“Farmers are really going into canola and focusing on returns per acre this year,” said Jerry Klassen, manager of Canadian operations with Swiss-based GAP SA Grains and Produits in Winnipeg.

Average trade guesses on canola plantings range from 20.3 million to 22.5 million acres, which would compare with the 20.4 million acres seeded in 2016. The previous canola acreage record, 22 million acres, was set in 2012.

“It’s no surprise we’ll see higher canola (acres), but there’s some debate over how much,” said Jon Driedger of FarmLink Marketing. The canola increases won’t be across the board, he added, with Manitoba farmers likely planting more soybeans at the expense of canola.

Most industry participants expect total Canadian wheat area (spring, winter and durum) to be down by at least a million acres from the 23.2 million seeded in 2016, with the largest reduction in durum. After 6.2 million acres of durum seeded in 2016, trade estimates for 2017 range from about 4.8 million to 5.8 million.

Farmers were discouraged with vomitoxin issues last year, and there is a high risk again due to moisture issues, said Klassen.

Durum acres should be down sharply in the “peripheral” durum-growing regions, but may hold steady in the prime areas, he said.

Opinions on pulse crop acres are more divided. A record 5.9 million acres of lentils were seeded in 2016, and early estimates for 2017 range from 3.9 million to 6.1 million acres. Pea acreage estimates are also vary widely, from 3.6 million to 4.8 million acres. That compares with the 4.2 million seeded in 2016.

“There is some uncertainty in the pulses with the whole India situation,” said Klassen, pointing to the unresolved issue over India’s fumigation requirements.

However, he added, farmers are still happy with the returns per acre, low inputs and rotational benefits of incorporating more pulses in their rotations.

Weather issues may still lead to some acreage adjustments over the next six to eight weeks, especially as many fields in Western Canada still have unharvested crops left over from 2016.

In addition, “at the end of the day, weather matters the most,” said Driedger, noting any adjustments in planted area will be overwhelmed by a tweak in yields over the course of the growing season.

— Phil Franz-Warkentin writes for Commodity News Service Canada, a Winnipeg company specializing in grain and commodity market reporting. Follow him at @philfw on Twitter.

Table: Pre-report trade guesses ahead of Statistics Canada’s April 21, 2017 report, in millions of acres.

Pre-report StatsCan
estimates 2016-17
Canola 20.300 – 22.500…… 20.367
All wheat * 21.200 – 23.000 23.212
–Durum 4.800 – 5.800 6.190
Barley 4.400 – 6.400 6.390
Flaxseed…….. 0.900 – 1.100 0.935
Oats 2.800 – 3.700 2.834
Peas 3.600 – 4.800 4.239
Lentils 3.900 – 6.100 5.860

* – All wheat includes winter wheat remaining

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